In 1967, The Beatles, arguably the biggest band ever, released arguably their biggest record ever — St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A new documentary, It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond, dives deep into the era surrounding the record. The nearly two hour film is available on VOD, Blu-ray and DVD today (Fri, Sept 8th) in the United States.
The film starts with the controversy of when John Lennon made the comment that the band was bigger than Jesus during an interview in 1966. The band caught a lot of backlash, but Lennon reluctantly apologized and the group decided to stop touring. Rumors began to run rampant that the band would be breaking up as reporters had been consistently asking each member about their future plans.
After the tour, The Beatles took a three month holiday before they began a marathon recording session to reinvent themselves and push the boundaries of what could be achieved in the studio. The group began working on its eighth album in late November 1966 with Sir George Martin at the helm. What followed was a period of extreme creativity and rebirth as they worked on Sgt. Pepper as they embraced Swinging London, the ‘avant-garde’, LSD and the advent of the Summer Of Love.
Sgt. Pepper was The Beatles alter ego and the first concept album in pop music as the members used an experimental approach to composition and recording the album. The band spent nearly six months at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London where they used signal processing and a 40 piece orchestra to tell their story. Sgt. Pepper is often credited as one of the first “art rock” albums and the birth of progressive rock, a genre known for multiple tempos and lengthy compositions.
The film uses archival footage of the band that has remained unseen since the 1960s to tell the story surrounding the group’s rebirth album. The documentary features rare interviews with The Beatles’ original drummer Pete Best, John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird, Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein’s secretary Barbara O’Donnell, Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks, Beatles associate Tony Bramwell, Pattie Boyd’s sister Jenny Boyd, Hunter Davies, Simon Napier-Bell, Ray Connolly, Bill Harry, Philip Norman, Steve Turner, Andy Peebles, Freda Kelly and The Merseybeats.
Director Alan G. Parker, a huge Beatles fan, tells the story of Sgt. Pepper from start to finish. Parker examines why the band stopped touring, how the album was conceived and its recording at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, its lyrics, the creation of its sleeve and its release. He also discusses the group’s relationship with manager Brain Epstein and his tragic death, and the new relationship they began with producer Sir George Martin.
Whether you’re a Beatles fan or a general fan of music documentaries, this film is sure to peak your interest. It’s amazing how the band went from recording albums in a few days or a week to taking many months with Sgt. Pepper. The behind the scenes look into one of music’s most famous and influential albums doesn’t hold back as it unveils the bright and dark side of the Fab Four. The documentary is very compelling and gives fans a look like no other into the band and their groundbreaking album. I highly recommend this film to any music fan.